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State of New Jersey v. Darren L. Seawright

July 28, 2011

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DARREN L. SEAWRIGHT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Indictment No. 08-05-0519.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted May 3, 2011

Before Judges Messano and Waugh.

Defendant Darren L. Seawright appeals his conviction for burglary and theft by unlawful taking. We affirm.

I.We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.

On the morning of November 29, 2007, Stephanie Rodriguez left her home on Paddock Lane in Willingboro to drop her daughter off at school. When she left, the doors were locked and a kitchen window above the sink was intact. Stephanie's husband, Robert Rodriguez, had left the residence earlier.*fn1

Stephanie returned home between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m. She walked into the kitchen and discovered that the back door was open and the window above the kitchen sink had been broken and "cranked open." Stephanie called the police, who arrived within a few minutes and entered the home while she waited outside. Robert returned home shortly thereafter.

The police officers then asked Stephanie and Robert to enter the house and determine what was missing. They reported that Stephanie's jewelry and Robert's camera had been stolen. Robert's change jar, which had been about three-quarters full of nickels, quarters and dimes, was empty, and there was change scattered throughout the house. Approximately $1175 in cash was taken from the room occupied by Robert's son.

Detective Amber Ciccanti of the Willingboro Police Department arrived at the scene shortly before noon. She noted that the window above the kitchen sink had been broken inward.

Ciccanti dusted "the area around the window and the window sill" for fingerprints, but did not find any in that area. However, Ciccanti was able to retrieve "two lifts of latent prints" from Robert's empty coin jar.

Ciccanti placed each of the two "lifts" on separate white cards and wrote information regarding each print on the back of the cards. The cards also had the date, Ciccanti's name, and her badge number, all in Ciccanti's handwriting. She then transported the prints back to the police station and filled out a request for a fingerprint examination report. The two fingerprints and report request were placed in an envelope and stored in a secured evidence locker at the Willingboro Police Station.

On December 3, 2007, the case was assigned to Willingboro Police Detective Kevin Vernon. At that time, Vernon knew that Ciccanti had retrieved latent fingerprints from the scene of the burglary, and that those prints would be analyzed later. In January 2008, however, the prints had not yet been analyzed. Although Vernon believed Seawright was a suspect, he closed the case due to a lack of physical evidence.

On February 20, 2008, Willingboro Police Detective Albert Kelly delivered the envelope containing the prints lifted by Ciccanti to the New Jersey State Police Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) Unit. Kelly also delivered a fingerprint card with Seawright's prints.*fn2 AFIS notified Ciccanti of the match on February 21, 2008.

Detective Sergeant Michael Wiltsey of the Burlington County Prosecutor's Officer, who was assigned to the Crime Scene Unit, was supplied with the AFIS hit packet and analyzed the prints lifted from the coin jar. Although the first print was not sufficient, Wiltsey determined that the clarity of the second print was sufficient to permit identification. Wiltsey compared the second print to Seawright's fingerprint card and concluded that it matched the right-ring finger print on Seawright's fingerprint card.

Seawright was arrested on March 10, 2008. On March 17, Seawright, who had not yet been indicted, filed a pro se motion requesting a probable cause hearing. See R. 3:4-3. On March 25, he ...


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